Posted by: robertartemenko | March 9, 2010

HugeGOD in America

The New York Time’s February 11, 2010 Sunday Magazine’s feature article was How Christian Were the Founders? 

In this essay Robert Shorto discusses how (arch)conservative elements of the Texas State Board of Education are driving more content into their school curricula and textbooks reflecting what they assert better represents the predominant Christian worldview of the founding fathers. While there are aspects of balance and objectivity in the article, there is still the tone of, “When will these fanatics get over the fact that man’s reason and noble science have allowed him to mature beyond this right-wing hocus pocus, so we can all move on and conduct life with a ‘thinking person’s’ worldview.” Shorto acknowledges that there were definitely religious roots in the country, but there is a sense that these powdered-whig sourced convictions do not continuously extrapolate forward beyond the Declaration of Independence. That the Constitution’s “sans God” content set the stage for the country’s migration to a lesser dependency on the Divine. That in 1776 God may have been sovereign, but these days there are new sheriffs in town that dictate our destiny and well-being … so sorry, let’s get modern and move on.

In the final analysis, “faith” in God is just that. Each individual processes their acquired stores of thought, history and opinion and decides who or what they ultimately trust in for guidance, priorities and purpose. What surprises me is our relative ignorance of the purity and degree of God-centeredness that has poured out of America’s great leaders as they were squeezed in the wine presses of the Union’s greatest challenges. The references below are not exhaustive. They came from the mouths of very human and imperfect men. Like us they were hypocritical, prone to say one thing, do another, and get lost along the way. Yet, when the world was looking to them to lead and in so doing reveal what was deep in their characters, what overflowed their souls, there are undeniable stripes of their acknowledgment, dependency and praise of Almighty God. These men were chiefs or our STATE, they were warriors of our STATE, they were each stewards of our STATE, and yet in times when all eyes were on them they not only did not balk, they blared to fellow citizens that the STATE needed to cleave to God, not be separated. In their minds, as seen in the words below, the STATE’s well-being had been, was now, and would continue be dependent on its subordination to God and His associated blessing. (I can’t imagine what the talking heads on CNN would be saying if the contemporaries of the leaders below were to espouse such positions in the coming news week, amid earthquakes, Tiger Tales and the latest governor’s indiscretion.)


On June 8 (or 14) of 1783, General of the Continental Army, George Washington, circulated this “call-to-unity” to the governors of the 13 colonies before he retired, or so he thought, from public life. It reads:

“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. (“to do justice, love mercy, demean ourselves with…humility” is a clear reference to Micah 6:8)

On October 14, 1789, then President George Washington, on the recommendation of both houses of congress, proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving and prayer that following month of November 26. The Massachusetts Sentinel reported this presidential proclamation in mid-October:

“WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:’

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.”


President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, in the midst of a tragic civil war understood he and the country were still operating under the providence of God.  Accordingly, he formalized this day of thanksgiving into the American calendar, each fourth Thursday in November.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.”


Abiding by strict security and managing to the 5 hour time difference, president Franklin D. Roosevelt came on national radio the evening of June 6, 1944 and offered a prayer for those soldiers engaged in the D-Day invasion and the country which had sent them. In fact, hours before he came on national radio, the government contacted radio stations and pre-broadcast FDR’s words at dictation speed, so that the stations might themselves offer preliminary texts to their listeners who could copy them down and follow along during the president’s comments.

“My fellow Americans, last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

 And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

 Almighty God: our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

 They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

 They will be sore tried, by night and by day without rest – until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

 For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home—fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers of brave men overseas—whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them—help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

 Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a countenance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

 Give us strength, too—strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment—let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

 With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace—a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”


Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr., commander of the 3rd Army in Europe sent this Christmas greeting to his troops in December of 1944. There was little doubt where he stood on the subject of God’s relevance to the situation at hand.


“To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”




General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, shared these words following the Japanese signing their unconditional surrender on board USS Missouri, September 2, 1945. His words are not only gracious to the vanquished, but he is calling the world to realize that the advent of the atomic bomb has changed things such that total world war is no longer an option. What required is a spiritual reawakening, without which the flesh cannot be saved.

“Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won….

As I look back upon the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that he has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.

A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence (to break out again after a period of dormancy – RTA) and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”



“Dueling quotes” could be assembled from the leaders above that could make a case for multiple doctrines on the role of God in America. Our focus should be on the consistency of the themes permeating these events. There seems no hesitation to call out to Almighty God, nor any surprise on the part of their audience, that this is not only “a proper” thing to do, but also the must efficacious. There seems to have been a corporate soul that when hard-pressed by circumstances, our leaders sought God’s intervention and care, while the people resonated approvingly. (I am siting no Gallop Polls nor listener research, but most  context around these prayers and exhortations indicates agreement and an energetic positive response.)

What’s up? Leadership mindsets contrary to prevailing conventional wisdom.

What about separation of their church and state? The STATE was separated from the church, but not from God. It’s not so much about organized religion as about individuals seeing themselves as “under God.”

What’s different? Their sense of humility, truth and love. They suspended their pride before men and as they humbled themselves under God in these trials. There was a sense of absolute truth… of right and wrong, just and unjust, good and bad… they were not hamstrung by a paralyzing “positive” tolerance. They loved (and feared) God more than they feared the dire outcomes of their situations. Note how FDR concludes with “Thy will be done.” In fact listen to how he emphasizes those words in the audio. They are not a mindless salutation, he emphasizes each word. (as if  IT’S UP TO GOD! IT’S ALWAYS UP TO GOD.) And these people sense that as much as they plea for what they want for the country, God is sovereign and knows best.  They’d rather have what He deems best eternally than what we demand temporally.

How Christian Were the Founders? They were driven by Christian worldviews and it showed most as they fought to sustain the country. The question as formed creates a stand-off between (1) belief systems, (2) church-state separatists and (3) “religious” folk and those turned-off by organized religion. There will always be sensitivity around these topics, but handling the query from the author’s entry point sets audience segments on edge. A better hypothesis to test would be,  “How Godly” or “God Fearing” Were the Founders?

From this representative historical sequence there is a chain of God-fearing personal worldviews that stretch continuously toward us today. They do not manifest themselves in press releases from religious institutions or sound bites from televangelists. It has it’s source in what had already permeated and colored the hearts and minds of the founders (and the leaders above), from what “truths they held as self-evident” from their experience with “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” (See the Declaration of Independence).

There is fundamental wisdom reflected here that we seem to be losing. Worse than that, there seem to be cultural antibodies that want to expunge this mindset from our leaders, from our families and from students who are to become new families and leaders. This is not progress. This is decay. This is man’s pride displacing humility before God, it is relativism displacing truth and it is self-love displacing devotion to God.

The founders never intended this for their people. Their words and deeds reflected their Hope for us, and for themselves.

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (NIV)

Psalm 37:5,6 “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (NIV)

Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: